A Post-Mortem On The McCain Campaign

In the aftermath of a failed presidential campaign, it’s important to take the time to detail what went wrong.

So, with that in mind, here’s my McCain campaign post-mortem.

* First off, the field was heavily slanted towards the Democrats and it was going to be extremely difficult for ANY Republican candidate to win. Moreover, McCain had some very unique difficulties to contend with: namely, that he was widely despised by conservative activists, 527 groups, and members of the conservative media.

* McCain’s early campaign was very positive, but drew no media attention, and as a result, he almost completely dropped off the national radar. During that time period, Obama steadily but surely moved ahead.

* As a result of McCain’s positive approach being ignored by the media, he launched a series of hard hitting, well crafted ads that did damage to Obama and allowed McCain to narrow the gap before the Democratic National Convention.

* After the Democratic National Convention, as expected, Obama moved ahead. Then, McCain selected Palin, went to the Republican National Convention and emerged just ahead of Obama.

This is exactly where he needed to be with the idea being that he would defeat Obama in the debates, come out 4-5 points ahead, and ride that advantage to a win over Obama.

* However, things started to go horribly wrong because of the bailout. Once it became the big story, the focus shifted to the economy and McCain’s numbers started to plunge.

Then, when he “suspended his campaign,” canceled the debate, and went to D.C., he really got in deep.

The bailout was unpopular with the American people, really unpopular with conservatives, and when McCain signed onto it, it tanked his numbers with small government conservatives who hated the bill. It also undercut one of the central arguments of his campaign: that he could handle a crisis much better than Obama. When the American people got to see both McCain and Obama perform during a real crisis, it turned out that both of them did exactly the same thing.

At the time, I strongly recommended that McCain sign on to the House Republican plan, which proposed dealing with the crisis via loans and insurance. Before McCain agreed to sign onto the bailout, I wrote:

Let me make a simple prediction; John McCain backs the bailout, he loses the election. The Republicans in Congress back this bailout and they lose 5 seats in the Senate and 20 in the House — minimum.

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